Yes, Legalizing Weed Will Help Curb the Opioid Epidemic, For Exactly the Reasons You Think

Any public health official interested in resolving North America’s opioid crisis should be looking towards national legalization of medical marijuana. That’s the conclusion of two new studies recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine, an American Medical Association journal.

“In this time when we are so concerned — rightly so — about opiate misuse and abuse and the mortality that’s occurring, we need to be clear-eyed and use evidence to drive our policies,” said W. David Bradford, an economist at the University of Georgia and an author of one of the studies. “If you’re interested in giving people options for pain management that don’t bring the particular risks that opiates do, states should contemplate turning on dispensary-based cannabis policies.”

A 2014 study, also published in JAMA, came to much the same conclusion: states with legalized cannabis dispensaries had a 25% lower opioid fatality rate than state without dispensaries. But the new studies are the first long-term study, based on a five-year analysis of Medicare Part D and Medicaid prescription data. The researchers conclude that in states with legal cannabis dispensaries, doctors have been referring patients with chronic pain issues to the dispensaries rather than prescribe an opioid-based painkiller.

The dispensary angle is key here. In states where either medical or recreational marijuana use is legal but no distribution infrastructure is in place, the rates of opioid prescription fulfillments declined less dramatically, between 7 and 14%. States where dispensaries are easily accessible — broadly, states that have legalized recreational marijuana use — saw the greatest drop in opioid prescription fulfillment and opioid-related deaths.

Given opioids’ notoriously spotty pain reduction (one recent study of arthritis sufferers found opioids no better than NSAIDs at pain reduction) and their infamously addictive properties, it’s not surprising that patients would choose marijuana instead. However, due to the widespread criminalization of cannabis for decades, relatively few rigorous, long-term studies of its painkilling properties are available for doctors to review.

“I would say the evidence has been very modest up until about 10 years ago, because nobody would fund the research,” said University of Maine’s Marie Hayes. “[But] people are convinced of its safety.”

Researchers are quick to point out that cannabis can have side effects, too. Several studies have indicated a link between early marijuana use and the onset of schizophrenia, though the link seems dependent on a host of variables. And there’s always the risk of getting high, though that can be mostly avoided when the psychoactive component of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, is removed.

Ultimately, if both opioid and cannabis painkillers are available, patients and doctors seem to be moving away from opioids. And given the epidemic usage of opioids across North America, which reaches every strata of society, that move is a net benefit for public health.


Ken Starr, a conservative pundit and frequent Fox News guest, is best known for his dogged attacks to find impeachable offenses by President Bill Clinton during a multi-year investigation into every aspect of the Clinton family's lives.

In the end, Starr found an extramarital affair which was used to impeach Clinton and that Clinton lied under oath about his personal life.

Keep reading...
Siavosh Hosseini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani is known by some to hurt his client more than help him.

Such was the case on Monday afternoon, after Trump's impeachment defense attorney, Jane Raskin, defended Giuliani on the Senate floor, dismissing the idea that he went to Ukraine to look for dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.

Keep reading...
Fox News // Fox News

New allegations from former National Security Advisor John Bolton in his upcoming memoir have thrown a wrench into the efforts of President Donald Trump's impeachment defense team to bypass a vote for additional witnesses.

According to Bolton, Trump told him explicitly that he wanted to withhold congressionally approved aid from Ukraine until its President announced investigations into Trump's political rivals.

Keep reading...
JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images // Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Congressman Justin Amash (I-MI) left the Republican Party in July of last year after frustration with its enabling of President Donald Trump.

Since then, Amash has publicly taken Trump and others to task for lying, and he sided with Democrats in favor of Trump's impeachment by the House of Representatives.

Amash is at it again after Trump tried to dismiss new allegations by former National Security Advisor John Bolton, who wrote in a manuscript of his upcoming memoir that Trump sought to withhold congressionally approved aid from Ukraine until its President announced investigations into the Bidens.

Keep reading...
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

After three years in office, President Donald Trump's average approval rating has never risen above 50 percent.

While he enjoys a high approval rating among the Republican party, a new hashtag trending on Twitter is highlighting those who were so repulsed by him that they left the party all together.

The hashtag #ILeftTheGOP, apparently started by former Conservative writer Cheri Jacobus, shot to one of the top trends on Twitter.

Keep reading...
STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images // Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Just one day after President Donald Trump's lawyers insisted during his Senate impeachment trial that the President did nothing wrong, reporting from the New York Times made the job of defending Trump even more difficult.

The Times reported on the upcoming memoir from Trump's former National Security Advisor John Bolton, which asserts that President Trump sought to withhold $391 million in congressionally approved aid from Ukraine until its President announced an investigation into his potential 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

If true, Bolton's assertion would confirm previous second-hand testimony regarding the existence of a quid pro quo in Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

Keep reading...